How Important Are Expiration Dates?

Okay. We have “use or freeze by,”  “best by,” and “sell by.” What do they all mean? If something is on your shelf and something expired a day ago, would you just throw it away? Here is the Good Question.

I have a cousin who will go through her refrigerator and cupboards on almost a daily basis and will throw every single thing away if it’s expired by 12 hours. I’m not that bad. Some things I’ll use if they’re expired. Bread for example. I know if bread’s good or not. If it’s green, don’t eat it. Otherwise it’s okay. Your sandwich might not taste the freshest but toast is okay. Canned goods I’m okay with them being expired also but not for more than a year. I feel they already have years on them so if they’re expired, they’re really expired. Stuff like milk, sour cream, dairy creamers or really, any dairy product, I throw out pretty much when expired. I’ve gotten sick from using old sour cream and it’s not a fun to get sick from that.

What about “freeze by?” If it’s got a freeze by date, how long will you keep it in your freezer? What’s your rule of thumb? I try and clean out our freezers once a year when our new  meat comes. Otherwise at the first sight of freezer burn I toss. You can’t get rid of that taste. I also try to really wrap and freeze stuff for the long haul. We very rarely freeze things the way they come packaged from the store. Now we have to divide things up. I like to use saran wrap really tight and then use freezer Ziplocs.

What about you? Do you go through your stuff regularly? Do these dates mean anything to you and what will you eat what’s expired and what do you toss?

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14 Responses to How Important Are Expiration Dates?

  1. skl1 says:

    I go through stuff when my cupboard is getting too full, or when I have an itch to clean. I will let things go a little beyond the expiration date. Let’s say I give most things an extra 20% of time on this earth, give or take. But if it’s a canned good and it’s expired, that means it’s been sitting there forgotten for a long time, and chances are, nobody’s going to use it anyway. Actually, if there’s a food drive, I like to get rid of canned goods that are getting close to expiration, in the hope that someone is hungry enough to eat it.

  2. Vicki N Sean says:

    Sean’s a freak when it comes to expiration dates, if its outdated its out! Me on the other hand had some spices which dated back to the 80’s that Jenny came across one day that we tossed out..lol I thought things got better with age?? lol

  3. Nikki says:

    Nothing lasts too long over here, to really worry about expiration dates. The occasional bag of cheese will be shoved in the back, and in that case I look! With bread/buns, I can tell if they are good or not. Same with dairy, but again, milk doesn’t last in our house. I did get a BAD gallon of milk not too long ago. I was so mad! Nothing worse than nasty milk!

    I haven’t thought to look at my spices, but I will now! There are some that are probably pretty old.

    • Nikki says:

      I hardly ever freeze meat. I don’t buy 2 weeks worth of groceries, only one. So unless, it says “freeze by this date”, and I KNOW I won’t use it by then, then I will freeze it.

  4. Sue says:

    There have been some pretty old things in my cupboards and fridge that I’ve found! LOL! I had a can of chow mien (yes, a can!) in my cupboard for about 6 years before I threw it out! It had been shoved way in the back and it wasn’t until I really cleaned out the cupboard that I found it and then I kept it for a year or so before I finally threw it out b/c it was one of the first things we bought when we moved into our house! I’ve also had dressings and other bottles of things in the fridge that managed to hang out a little too long. I do tend to throw things out if they are expired. Dairy and things like that I’m much more hard on than canned goods or things in the fridge.

  5. Laura says:

    I have two pantries and a deep freeze (actually, two deep freezers, but one really isn’t used. I should just clean it out and unplug it). My kitchen pantry is rotated pretty often – all the stuff that we regularly use is in there, so nothing stays long. The basement pantry is our “emergency stock”, so that stuff I have to kind of keep an eye on, since I don’t get into it much. Canned goods, if they’re past their expiry date by too long (i’ve found stuff in our emergency stash that was like two years past), I’ll open, dump the contents outside for the critters, and recycle the can. I wont’ just throw away full cans.

    The freezer… I buy meat in “small bulk” – the big tray of 15 chicken breasts, for example, or a 10lb tube of ground beef, or an entire loin of ribeye that the butcher will cut into steaks for me. Those, I take home and whip out the ol’ vacuum sealer. That thing was one of our best purchases ever!!! I absolutely LOVE it. I have baskets in my freezer for chicken breast, ground beef, steaks, fish, pork chops, and a couple for misc meats (sirloins, chicken pinwheels, stuff we don’t get as often). I’ll seal and date the meat cuts, and throw them in there. New stuff goes in the back. That meat never lasts too long, we usually eat it within a couple months of purchase. I do have an “experimental chicken breast” stashed in the back of the freezer, way at the bottom. It’s been in there for maybe a year or more. I’m trying to see just how long the vacuum seal thing will work for. So far, it still looks good.

    Bread, milk, fruit/veg… this stuff goes pretty quick around here, and I’m generally not worried about expiring. If bread goes stale and we’re approaching fall, I’ll start a paper bag and put the pieces in that, so they’ll get good and stale without molding, and we use it for dressing at Thanksgiving.

    • Joy says:

      I have this (the style has changed since I got mine but this it’s the same price) hand held sealer that seals their containers and it’s got an attachment to seal mason jars. I love it. When the boys were little I had those sealers and did what you do. We couldn’t afford it so I bought on sale too. We don’t buy in bulk like that much anymore with just the two of us but I love that hand held one for my brown sugar, flour and white sugar. I have the marinating containers and some of the cylinder ones but I love resealing jars. It will also reseal if you have spaghetti left over or stuff like that. It’s the best $30 I ever spent.

    • Joy says:

      I’ve never used the bags. I think they are ridiculously expensive and a total waste of money so I just take the air out of Ziplocks and put them in our upstairs freezer and freeze them flat so they lay on top of each other flat and even. Or you can put them in your freezer like a book in a book shelf after they’ve frozen. If I put them in either freezer in the basement, it will never be seem again.

      • Laura says:

        I don’t use the bags, either. They have rolls that are “endless”, that come in 8″ wide and 11″ wide. You cut off only what you need, and seal both ends. I usually use the 8″ sleeves, but the 11s work well for things like sirloins or the leg of lamb that Steve just bought. I would never buy the bags, though. Too much waste when you have something like 1/2 lb of ground beef or a single chicken breast.

      • Joy says:

        I used to use those rolls also. There were the clear thing. I loved that machine.

  6. Jenny says:

    I usually clean my fridge every year when the in-laws come. Yes we keep dressings too long, that I see no big deal with. I smell the milk every time I open it. Check the yogurt dates, sometimes they get forgotten about in the back. So they have to get tossed. I would never eat any dairy that’s expired. Spices I think would definitely lose their flavor if kept too long, especially from the 70’s. Haha Mom!!

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